•Fellow footballers like Posta Rangers midfielder Dennis Oalo is among a number of emerging talents, who are juggling between education and football.
•Oalo blossomed early and was a star in his school both at primary (Ongang in Himanshu) and secondary (Kisumu Day) level.
Kenya’s fans-favourite Michael Olunga success on and off the pitch has encouraged many footballers to take their academic work seriously as they look beyond the short career in sports.
Fellow footballers like Posta Rangers midfielder Dennis Oalo is among a number of emerging talents, who are juggling between education and football like their idol Geospatial Engineer Olunga.
The Posta ace is, however, adamant that he did not take up the course to emulate the Harambee Stars striker but rather it was a childhood dream.
“It was always my ambition since I was a little boy. I could make cars for my fellow children as we grew up and my interest continued well into school,” said the student of Automotive Engineering at Kisumu Polytechnic.
Oalo, who grew up in Kisumu and started playing football back in primary school, revealed his struggles to balance his academic pursuit while still maintaining his football ambitions.
“It’s a tough challenge for me as I have to adjust my time. It means sometimes I have to defer my studies and always handle one at a time. This means I study during my free time from football since at the moment the sport is what is paying my rent,” explained Oalo.
Like many youngsters across the country, the choice of playing football and going to school was stark for Oalo. His parents were adamant that education was the only option for his future.
“The challenge in football was just that. My parents were against it. Where we used to stay was also far from the ground and was forced to trek for long to access training facilities,” he recalled.
Oalo blossomed early and was a star in his school both at primary (Ongang in Himanshu) and secondary (Kisumu Day) level. This brought him into the limelight and in due course, his talent was recognised.
“I think in these case my breakthrough came through the high school ball games. I won several top scorer’s trophies and also was the leading scorer in the secondary school ball games in Machakos in 2015 and from then, my career just took off,” said Oalo.
Oalo first club was Western Stima, where he was recruited by current coach Paul Ogai. He did not last long there and went on to join Nairobi Stima, only to return to Kisumu to join All Stars.
“Ogai and Nick Aketch were instrumental in giving me a chance to play football at a high level and also offered me the guidance I needed to succeed.I will forever be grateful to them,” said Oalo.
He memorably scored a hat trick to help All Stars earn promotion in 2019, a feat he proudly looks back on up to date.
It was not all rosy for Oalo as he had to contend with the dark side of football where meritocracy sometimes does not count.
“It was one of my lowest moments in the game when a certain team terminated my contract due to claims of poor performance yet I was amongst the best performers that season in that team,” he said.
Now a key member of Sammy Omollo’s mailmen, Oalo is taking everything in his stride even though the club is struggling and is yet to register victory with nearly a quarter of the campaign done with.
“We are taking every match as it comes. It is still early days. We know the target that has been set for us by the coach and we are not going to panic despite our results not being what we maybe deserved,” said the two-footed attacker, who admires Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo.
Though he is yet to win a call up at any level with the national team, Oalo insists his performance at club level will bring him closer to that objective.
“I can’t be obsessed by wanting to play for the national team. What is important now for me is to play well for Posta and God willing, I will get the recognition of the national selectors,” said Oalo.
Name: Dennis Ochieng’ Oalo
Age: 24 years
Leg: Both footed
Weight: 70 kg
Nationality : Kenyan
Current: Posta Rangers
Previous: Gor Mahia, Western Stima, Kisumu Allstars and Nairobi Stima.
2019: Top scorer NSL
2015:Top scorer National Secondary School ball games in Machakos 2015 from Kisumu Day High School
Ongang Primary School in Homabay County
Kisumu Day High school